Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Anne d’Harnoncourt

William Grimes's New York Times obituary for the Philadelphia Museum of Art's Anne d’Harnoncourt closes with a mention of her crucial role in the Gross Clinic saga:

"One of her recent achievements was a matter of local pride. In the fall of 2006, Thomas Jefferson University, a Philadelphia medical school, said that it would sell 'The Gross Clinic,' an 1875 masterpiece by the Philadelphia artist Thomas Eakins, to the National Gallery of Art in Washington and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas. To prevent the sale, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts had 45 days to match the selling price of $68 million. Ms. d’Harnoncourt went into high gear, saying, 'It’s a painting that really belongs in Philadelphia — his presence still resonates here.' In the end she prevailed, in part by selling an Eakins painting and two oil sketches to the Denver Art Museum and the Anschutz Collection, also in Denver. (The Fine Arts academy had also sold an Eakins painting from its collection.) 'We’re heaving a deep sigh,' Ms. d’Harnoncourt said when the Eakins deal was concluded. 'This is it. Now we can celebrate.'"